House mold remediation
If you detect a visible mold growth, eliminate it as soon as possible! Or the mold could spread through the house and cause an extensive mold infestation, which is usually not covered by insurance. Exercise caution when removing molds because they release particles and mold spores when disturbed. Wear a mask or respirator, gloves, goggles, and coveralls. If the mold growth exceeds 10 sq. ft., calling in a mold remediation professional is recommended. Damaged sheetrock or paneling, and moldy porous items like carpets, clothing, and upholstered furniture usually have to be discarded.
How do you remove invisible molds?
Except for visible mildew growths, molds and mold spores are too small to be visible. If you find an accumulation of molds, it is a sure bet that there is much more molds in the air and all surfaces in the room, as well as in upholstery and carpeting.
Tea Tree oil vapors will permeate the air and surrounding porous surfaces. They will clean molds, mold spores, and biological pathogens floating in the air or hiding inside porous surfaces like sheetrock. They can even restore moldy upholstered furniture or books.
Eliminate musty odors
The musty odor found in most finished basements is the product of hidden molds munching on organic matter. This emits water, carbon dioxide, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like alcohols and aldehydes. When inhaled, these chemicals irritate respiratory passages. The musty odors, as well as mold spores, are spread by air flow through the house.
How about chlorine bleach?
Household chlorine bleaches contain 5.25% active sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), which forms hypochlorous acid (HOCl) when diluted in water. This acid is very effective against many types of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. However, its use is not recommended in homes because of health and environmental risks.
Chlorine bleach is caustic to human tissues like skin and its lingering fumes are a lung and eye irritant. It can discolor or break down fabrics and is extremely corrosive even to metals. Not recommended for people with respiratory or heart problems. Short-term exposure to the gas may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems. If mixed with ammonia-containing cleaners, it releases toxic chloramine gas (several people have died.). If mixed with acids, including vinegar, it generates highly toxic chlorine gas used during WW I. Many automatic dishwashing detergents contain chlorine, which reacts with organic matter and when you open the dishwasher door, steamy carcinogenic gas (trihalomethanes) rushes out. Chlorine also reacts readily with organic substances in the environment and creates other hazardous compounds, such as furans and dioxins.
Chlorine bleach is not really an effective solution because it lacks penetration and its effects do not last. It is suitable for smooth surfaces like countertops but they should be pre-washed first because organics will quickly neutralize the bleach. although it provides satisfaction by bleaching out the color of mildew, it does not kill its roots inside porous surfaces but waters them for further growth. If used to remove visible molds on basement or bathroom walls, the molds will usually start growing back within days. In contrast, BioZap mold remover penetrates into porous surfaces to the roots of molds (mycelium). Moreover, it leaves residue inside the pores and below the surface, preventing the return of molds for weeks. Other bleaches have similar shortcomings in bleaching the surface but watering the mold roots below.
The home invasion of molds and mildew
Molds are simple microscopic organisms, a sub-group of fungi, which also includes mushrooms and yeasts. They are too small to be visible but can be detected by a musty odor. When filamentous molds grow, they multiply exponentially and form a visible body (mycelium) of intertwining strings. Molds can appear and feel powdery or cottony, and be green, gray, brown, black, white, or a combination of these colors. Molds growing on textiles are called mildew, but there is no technical difference.
In order to grow, molds need 1) moisture, 2) suitable temperature, and 3) food – organic materials. They grow on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood products, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, and fabric. They produce mold spores (seeds), which waft in the air throughout the house, forming new colonies wherever they land. Molds flourish in damp areas like crawlspaces, basements, bathrooms (especially shower stalls), air conditioners, humidifiers, clothing closets, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and often in new houses because of all the moisture evaporating from new concrete and lumber.
The American Society of Home Inspections Say:
About 38 percent of homes have mold and fungus growth due to elevated moisture.
This problem is often worse in modern, tighter homes with little ventilation. There are thousands of mold species. Outdoors, they live in soil and help break down organic matter – without molds, we would all drown in dead leaves and organic debris. Molds are everywhere, outdoors or indoors, and any type of mold can trigger or aggravate allergies, whether toxic or not. Hazardous or safe levels have not been established because the health effects depend so much on the individual. Therefore, if you detect a mold growth or a musty odor, it is more urgent to get rid of the mold rather than finding out what type it is.
The toxic black mold
Some molds produce extremely potent toxins called mycotoxins. Exposure to mycotoxins can present a greater health hazard than the mold itself and may cause short and long-term health effects. Large amounts of mycotoxins in air may cause serious illnesses like toxicosis (invasive infection). Some are carcinogenic and cause, for example, kidney cancer.
The “toxic black mold” has become the most feared of all molds. Many private homes and several schools had to be evacuated. Homeowners have lost their homes because most insurance companies exclude mold damage. However, there are many mold types that are black and are common in houses, particularly in bathrooms and basements.
The black molds known to produce mycotoxins include Stachybotrys chartarum and Memnoniella. Stachybotrys is a greenish-black fungus that grows on materials with a high cellulose content, such as drywall sheetrock, dropped ceiling tiles, and wood which became chronically moist due to excessive humidity, water leaks, or flooding. Stachybotrys can cause nervous system symptoms such as sleep disorders, memory loss, and personality changes. It has been linked to fatal bleeding in the lungs of infants, but this is disputed.
Stachybotrys has been found in 2% to 3% of homes. If black or dark green mold is growing on materials containing cellulose, often resulting from a persistent water leak, it is prudent not to disturb it and test first whether it is a toxic mold. There are inexpensive mold test kits that identify the types of mold present. Samples can be taken with a transparent sticky tape and analyzed in a microbiological laboratory. If you suspect Stachybotrys, it is best to call your state Department of Health or consult a professional (Industrial Hygiene consultants in Yellow Pages).
Molds after floods and hurricanes
Many homeowners face more frequent hurricanes and associated flooding. Nothing spurs the growth of molds like a recent flood – molds start growing in four days. If not quickly eliminated, molds can multiply the flood damage.
Health effects of molds
The documented health problems associated with mold exposure fall into four categories:
Mold spores are so small (5-10 microns) that they evade the protective mechanisms of the nose and upper respiratory tract. Allergic reactions are the most common effect – runny nose, itching eyes, rashes. The other common effects of exposure to molds include wheezing, flu-like symptoms, chronic sinus infections, nosebleeds, fever, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and respiratory infections.
Mold spores can trigger or aggravate asthma, particularly, in children. The incidence of allergies and asthma has doubled in the last decade, which has been linked to the increase in airborne molds in modern “energy efficient” homes. One of five Americans suffers from allergies. The other health effects include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, reaction to mitological volatile organic compounds, opportunistic infections, and micotoxic reactions. Some pathogenic molds even affect the central nervous system or suppress the immune system.
Persons at greater risk for adverse health effects are the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, people with a compromised immune system or existing respiratory conditions such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma. While allergic reactions may be the most common health-related problem of exposure to molds, a 1999 Mayo Clinic study shows that molds cause most of the chronic sinus infections which inflict 37 million Americans each year.
The effects of molds are cumulative – the first hundred exposures may have no effect but the next one can cause a reaction.
The growth of molds in your house should be prevented to minimize the exposure to yourself and your family. You cannot eliminate all the mold spores in the air, but, at the very least, you must reduce the concentration below the threshold at which your family experiences allergic reactions.
Mold is only the symptom – moisture is the cause!
The only effective way to control biological air contaminants like molds, fungi, bacteria, and dust mites is by tackling the cause. Eliminate the sources of moisture and reduce humidity in your home! Repair any water leaks in the roof, walls or basement. Prevent condensation on walls and windows by maintaining a low relative humidity in your home, ideally 30–50 percent (less than 30% is too dry for wooden furniture). Humidity levels are measured by hygrometers available in hardware stores.
Cooking and bathing may add 3 gallons of water each day to the indoor air – install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Basements are the largest source of moisture
Most people do not realize that concrete is porous and overlook the single largest source of moisture in homes – the basement or foundation slab. Water seeps in through the pores in concrete, as well as any openings, in the form of invisible water vapor. In addition, the pores actively draw in by capillary action liquid water, which usually quickly evaporates. The average basement lets in 15 to 18 gallons of moisture each day, several times more than bathrooms and kitchen combined!
Dehumidifiers are commonly used in basements. But they consume lots of power on condensing water vapor ($30–50 a month) and release this energy as heat, which adds to the air-conditioning load. However, in the long run, dehumidifiers draw in more moisture from the ground through the porous concrete, which makes it more porous and accelerates its deterioration.